Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems

by Alice Walker


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“Though we have encountered our share of grief and troubles on this earth, we can still hold the line of beauty, form, and beat. No small accomplishment in a world as challenging as this one.”
— from the preface

I was born to grow,
alongside my garden of plants,
this one

So writes Alice Walker in this new book of poems, poems composed over the course of one year in response to joy and sorrow both personal and global: the death of loved ones, war, the deliciousness of love, environmental devastation, the sorrow of rejection, greed, poverty, and the sweetness of home. The poems embrace our connections while celebrating the joy of individuality, the power we each share to express our truest, deepest selves. Beloved for her ability to speak her own truth in ways that speak for and about countless others, she demonstrates that we are stronger than our circumstances. As she confronts personal and collective challenges, her words dance, sing, and heal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608681884
Publisher: New World Library
Publication date: 08/27/2013
Pages: 184
Sales rank: 501,426
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Alice Walker is known around the world for her fiction, poetry, essays, and human rights activism. She was honored with the 2010 Lennon Ono Grant for Peace and has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Mendocino, California

Date of Birth:

February 9, 1944

Place of Birth:

Eatonton, Georgia


B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1965; attended Spelman College, 1961-63

Read an Excerpt

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

By Alice Walker, Shiloh McCloud

New World Library

Copyright © 2010 Alice Walker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60868-282-9



    Yes, I know I am not
    a farmer
    and that you
    a gypsy
    or a king:
    Have you ever
    poetic license?
    It is when
    for instance
    the poet
    of buffalo
    are now
    the remaining
    to feel

    I claim
    farming ancestry:
    going back
    I wish
    to look:
    All those Africans
    & their
    yam & cassava fields
    the Indians &
    their corn
    the English
    & their
    collard plants
    the Scots
    maybe oats!
    the Irish
    their potatoes
    the Elves

    All killing themselves
    by the thousands
    killing themselves
    their own
    not just
    in India,
    where suicide
    a leading cause
    but in
    they are doing

    How can this be?
    And how can

    So I claim

    I too
    run after
    the Earth
    as it disappears
    my feet;

    I too
    machines moving
    over her face

    Even so,
    you are
    quite right:
    I am not
    a "farmer"
    as most
    would think
    Tilling my tiny
    of corn
    Leaning more
    on the strength
    & youth
    as time
    moves on.

    No, I was born to grow,
    alongside my garden of plants,
    this one:



    You confide
    in me
    are lonely,

    that romance
    never stays
    But when
    I visit
    do I

    You do not
    a sofa!
    a sofa
    or maroon
    you cannot
    have romance
    in your

    A sofa is
    to all
    your boudoir;

    I cannot
    you are
    so old
    do not

    Well, lucky
    for you
    I am older!

    Trying to have
    sit down,
    decide to
    when you have
    no sofa
    to sit
    is like
    using one
    in the
    large fish.


    You'd be surprised
    to find
    how cleansing
    it feels
    to depose
    There she is
    anticipating your
    every wish
    seeking to orchestrate
    your every
    Get rid of her!
    Life is too broad
    a country
    to tolerate
    such foolishness
    in your


    My sisters
    abandoned me.
    I might have
    from their
    & neglect.
    I ran after
    like a beggar
    my trust.


    who knows how?
    the body & the soul
    come back
    the hand
    holding the pen
    not advertising


    When I understood
    you were
    a tiger
    learning to love
    & not
    a monkey
    I could rest
    your paws.


    We are not
    said the
    the bear.
    The tiger
    was spitting
    out blackberry
    barely disguising
    The bear
    was feeling
    a leaping
    his teeth.


    You must
    run around like a
    crazy person


    Marley Mu came into my life when life was dragging
    and while teaching her how to pee in the right place,
    eat without too much slobber
    kiss me without stopping up my nose
    she made me see that life is always
    it is only us
    get off track
    cannot see
    the magic.

    We were together
    thirteen long years,
    good years,
    & she was my

    All her life
    I knew where she was
    every night
    except two.

    There were many who loved her.
    And even one night when she
    was lost
    her sweet spirit sent her rescuers
    to find me.

    I will miss her, the Marley Mu
    who came to live
    with me
    & yet
    one other thing
    she taught
    is that
    there is only one
    & so
    I learned
    that she is the sweet
    black Lab
    — on the beach
    in the street —
    to greet

    Alice Walker Mu — June 13, 2008


    This room
    is very powerful:
    Buddha, golden,
    holding down one side;
    the primordial
    Great Mother, black,
    offering her
    of mitochondria
    holding down
    the other.
    My meditation
    are made of wicker
    a miracle
    crafted by
    human hands.
    Human being
    may I not
    forget you
    in all
    this talk
    of God.


    I have found
    my sisters
    I have
    and still
    in them.


    My daughter
    is lost
    to me
    but I am not
    She says
    to her
    having a loving
    as Mu* is my witness,
    I have been


    is in
    the heart
    the tethered
    as Harriet**
    teaches us.
    I bow
    this history
    our difference.

    to me
    love itself
    may not
    at the very least


    IN US

    In us
    the old dark

    who were

    in half
    for living
    on their

    In us
    the old
    by our

    word or

    above all
    in our


    We have to live

    or we
    will die
    in the same

    old ways.

    I call on all Grand Mothers
    on the planet
    to rise
    and take your place
    in the leadership
    of the world

    Come out
    of the kitchen
    out of the
    out of the
    beauty parlors
    out of the

    Step forward
    & assume
    the role
    for which
    you were

    To lead humanity
    to health, happiness
    & sanity.

    I call on
    all the
    Grand Mothers
    of Earth
    & every person
    who possesses
    the Grand Mother
    of respect for
    protection of
    the young
    to rise
    & lead.

    The life of
    our species
    on it.

    & I call on all men
    of Earth
    to gracefully

    stand aside
    & let them
    (let us)
    do so.


    One Earth
    One People
    One Love

    One Earth
    One People
    One Love

    One Earth
    One People
    One Love


    The soul knows pain but is never diminished, injured, or
    destroyed. Thank you, Clarissa, for teaching this.


    How many
    too steep
    many times
    the hill
    has disappeared

    I am carried
    in arms
    that planned
    my life

    I sit nowhere
    I am


    my dreams
    in my

    I love you
    in & out



    Do not fight
    the despair
    To my
    in life
    I am left
    if I disappear


    Let the
    Sorrow has
    my feet.
    But there


    Who can
    a gift?

    My love
    will flow
    & live

    It is a bright

    I do not
    I am

    In each crack
    there is
    an orchid

    & chocolate


    I do not
    or sainthood.

    I honor
    I have
    the conundrums
    I have


    There is
    no God

    Just a

    in this


    I do not
    that is not
    the feeling
    I have
    but rather
    I feel
    as a

    It glimmers
    & glows
    lights my way.


    You have hit
    a wall
    open heart.

    (not closure)
    sprung up
    we eat

    just grows
    the same ones
    who are
    looking out
    for me.

    I may die
    perhaps you
    are killing
    I do not
    blame you
    for anything.
    You were
    part of
    the work
    I was given
    You did
    I did


    The journey
    of death
    the journey
    to death
    I do not
    When you smell
    a rose
    or see one
    see a
    or jackrabbit,
    a leaf,
    a star
    will be.
    or later
    & you
    will see: No anger
    followed me.
    No injury.
    No blame.


    Save yourself!
    It can be done.
    Even if the mind
    sit still
    a tree
    like Buddha
    & steady
    Silence it.
    It wants
    to go on

    But life's
    too short!

    You'll wake up
    in the
    one day
    it will all
    — this life —
    be over!

    What a waste
    is any kind

    The taste

    Wake up!
    before it is
    too late:
    to have
    your body
    with all


    Let the wind
    to you
    on the moor,
    Jane Eyre
    & your
    a lifeline
    abyss after
    of craziness.


    We did what
    we could
    with what
    on us.

    No regrets.
    No blame.
    The taste
    of figs
    orange peel

    with blind
    & many
    we made it


    Rise! Rising
    as Maya
    reminds us
    is our
    There is
    rising is
    as we
    carried or
    by life.

    This we know:
    We were
    not meant
    to suffer
    so much
    & to learn


    is that giant
    of everything
    a trace
    be found
    the parent

    gone to spirit
    you reached
    I am
    I will


    Watching you
    for such a long time
    I wonder:
    Isn't it
    Might you
    drop it

    I wonder:
    Where does it sleep
    if ever?

    And where
    you deposit
    while you

    in the
    the one

    There is no

    it is


    I will keep
    The big clay
    with raised
    of their

    I will keep
    The old
    to my
    by Mississippi
    a jagged
    in its sturdy

    I will keep
    The memory

    I will keep
    In my house
    on which
    I will

    Their beauty

    I will keep
    it is now


    I will keep

    Thank you
    so much!

    I will keep
    I will keep


    I will keep


    For Marco

    her eyes
    and know:
    She does not think


    We want
    to know.

    Monkeys are curious.
    We ask
    Will the tiger
    will the snake
    will the dragon
    will the elephant
    trample us?

    Will the pig entertain?

    We want
    to know


    I know
    my duty
    to life,

    I was not

    how could
    I know
    will be?

    Our children

    once a Goddess;
    & scanty praise

    I know
    my duty
    to life,
    to stop
    I cause

    Who knew?
    with ourselves
    to the
    the globe
    & all our

    I know
    my duty
    to life:
    I am grateful to have
    even a glimpse
    of it!

    gives me
    this hammock
    a close-up
    of hand-plastered
    & blue
    that bloom

    it is life
    that has given
    this swinging
    made of
    this hammock
    for a dollar
    on a beach

    I see
    that I,
    am permitted —
    in time —
    to see it


    Word has reached me
    that you are dying
    you, who hid
    in the closet
    the morning
    I was born
    to witness
    my birth
    — investigative Scorpio —
    and did not believe in cabbage
    or stork.

    I am far away
    not only in distance
    from your bed
    in emotion.

    Calling hospice
    I hear
    your quite loud
    of resistance:
    You do not want to go
    & even dying
    you will not pretend

    Oprah you will miss
    you have said, your
    & all your friends
    from television
    befriending you
    through pain
    so many

    I, once so close
    have drifted.

    my friends and I chanted
    for an hour
    an ancient mantra
    for sending
    loved ones on their way
    with kindness
    no fear.

    We lit candles
    & incense
    in my chanting
    I saw you
    seating yourself
    (dressed in black: centered
    and calm)
    in a small boat
    ochre colored

    Let go, let go
    into the soothing river
    I said to you
    & you
    as though
    you were considering

    Hearing your voice
    over thousands
    of miles
    no words
    sounds of protest
    of struggle
    of fighting —
    it is so
    So much
    I hear in
    the argument
    you make.

    Praying, later,
    I sent word
    to you that both our parents
    are waiting
    — all, whatever it was
    that rankled —
    is now
    & forevermore
    Grandpa & Grandma
    waiting too.

    How they loved & what is more, understood, you.
    I wonder if or why
    you fear them?

    As for me,
    I am
    spending the morning
    thinking of you
    feeling with you
    and wishing

    Sweeping up the petals
    of flowers
    that surround
    my door
    I see your face
    all our faces
    swept away
    by life's good
    we fall.

    Let go.
    Off into the river
    channel. Let go.
    All is well.

    The love we shared as children
    is not lost, though we have been.

    Let go.
    Let go.
    Let go.


    I pray
    for you
    to love
    the precious
    as I love it.

    In youth
    every speeding
    to turn

    their way
    you broke
    your shoulders
    in legs

    I can hardly
    to touch
    the scarred
    under the

    Holy One
    for even
    the tiniest
    why must
    it be
    endless roses
    in this world
    if there


    I will not deny
    my lips
    their smile
    I will not deny
    my heart
    its sorrow
    I will not deny
    my eyes
    their tears
    I will not deny
    my hair
    the wildness
    of my age

    It is

    I will deny
    me nothing
    of myself.


    You will never
    I loved
    I watched
    in the film.

    they covered
    your body
    & your
    so they
    would not
    to notice

    There is a stone
    the perfect
    to crush
    your skull
    just right
    to bash
    the delicate
    your nose:
    Still another,
    needle edged
    to gash
    bruise shut

    Your pink
    every day
    a tiny
    Did you
    to look
    out of it

    Your neighbors
    their boys
    would have
    been there:

    have to learn.

    Perhaps your own
    were encouraged
    to throw
    the first

    I don't speak
    of Jesus
    as much
    as some do —

    Still, how right
    he was —
    the feminine
    in woman
    the Earth
    himself —
    to try
    to put
    a stop
    to this.


    To my sixteen-year-old Beamer

    the world


    There is

    This is not
    I was


    It is
    I imitate

    of which
    or eaten
    to let
    our stairs

    to let
    teenagers —
    pierced —


    Kept from
    your birth
    still I realize
    will someday

    Hello, you might
    begin the conversation.
    Are you
    my grandmother?
    And I,
    being your
    cheeky monkey twin,
    may reply:

    Or I might begin:
    Yo, cute boy,
    are you
    my grandchild?
    & you,
    cautious Capricorn,
    might reply:
    It's possible.
    You will see
    living as you do
    in the Aquarian
    when it is
    at last
    for mere
    to quickly
    the world —
    ultimately separate
    not unanticipated

    keeps us apart
    for a reason
    only it
    we have only
    to endure
    a separation
    whenever you
    or I

    like all gods
    in whom
    we must
    have trust
    of choice,
    is simply


Excerpted from Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker, Shiloh McCloud. Copyright © 2010 Alice Walker. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Shiloh McCloud,
Preface: Learning to Dance,
Yes, I Know,
You Confide in Me,
You'd Be Surprised,
The Answer Is Yes,
My Teacher,
This Room,
In Us,
Calling All Grand Mothers,
One Earth,
The Taste of Grudge,
Love Is That Giant Bag,
Watching You Hold Your Hatred,
I Will Keep Broken Things,
La Vaca,
Monkeys Are Curious,
I Know My Duty to Life,
Word Has Reached Me,
I Pray for You,
I Will Not Deny,
You Will Never Know,
Meeting You,
The World Has Changed,
Some Lovers,
To a Relative,
We Pay a Visit to Those Who Play at Being Dead,
Sometimes Our Disappointment,
You Came,
Loving Humans,
Loving Our Leaders,
I Gave It Freely,
Mind Shine,
A Few Monks,
Even So,
Alice Loves Me,
Index of Poems,
About the Author,
About the Illustrator,

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